One of my reasons for living in Los Angeles is the absurd frequency of “once in a lifetime” concert opportunities. It seems like every other week I’m kicking myself for missing some show where some musician I love made a surprise appearance onstage with some musician I almost love enough to go out of my way to see. If it were anywhere else on the planet, I’d have to shoot myself.
But here in Los Angeles, there’s always another chance. It’s completely unfair, and I love it. Really, the only downside to going to shows in Los Angeles is they tend to be in Los Angeles, and thus attended largely by people completely out of their goddamned minds. But I swear I’m not going to do one of those reviews that talks about how the name dropping hipster next to me had a stupid haircut for 3 paragraphs while I forget the setlist, the names of the guests, and everything you actually give a shit about.
Here at Antiquiet, we’ve always been able to count on Josh Homme’s misbehavior for the occasional free meal. He helped put us on the map by calling Jimmy Iovine out by name and telling us Interscope sucks his dick in an interview we did with him back when we were just a blog that had to lie about who we were to get stories we didn’t deserve. Hilarity ensued. Then we jumped on a video of him calling some 15 year old a faggot, and got a bunch of shit for supporting what we considered good old fashioned rock star insensitivity. Once again, hilarity ensued.
But we’ve always believed in Josh Homme. And we’ve always known there was more to him than vulgar pullquotes. He’s a fucking incredible, inspiring guy, a force of character. And last night, the bastard touched our hearts.
Queens Of The Stone Age lost a very close personal friend on July 2nd. Natasha Shneider, from the band Eleven, died of cancer. She had joined QOTSA along with partner Alain Johannes for most (if not all) of the Lullabies To Paralyze tours, and showed up on many a Queens song, and many a Desert Sessions song. She was a beautiful woman, and a talented musician, who likely appears on more than one album you consider among your favorites of all time if you’re a regular here.
So Homme and Queens Of The Stone Age organized a concert to celebrate her life, inviting all of her friends; All proceeds to go to the Natasha Shneider Memorial Fund. Tickets were $100 each, and the event sold out.
The show began with a short Tenacious D set. I’m not a huge fan of joke bands, but luckily they didn’t outstay their welcome and those fat fucks are kinda fun to watch I guess. They did that jam about warm butts and kielbasa sausage, Wonder Boy, maybe a song or two I’m forgetting, and Tribute.
Then one of Natasha’s songs accompanied a slideshow of photos of her from all periods of her life, with many candid shots of her horsing around with familiar faces from the Queens extended family.
Queens began with Go With The Flow, a version I’ve never heard before that started slow and sped up maybe three quarters in. That was followed by a more upbeat Turnin’ On The Screw, and then they kicked it up another notch with Misfit Love. Slightly droney The Blood Is Love came next, though I would have preferred another rocker to help me continue to regain the energy I lost standing around for 3 hours waiting for some action.
Luckily, 3s & 7s came next, allowing us all to jump around a bit before we got our first round of special guests: PJ Harvey came out with Alain Johannes. They did The Desperate Kingdom Of Love, PJ’s song from 2004’s Uh Huh Her. Then Alain exited, Chris Goss entered, and with him PJ did There Will Never Be A Better Time, from the Desert Sessions.
After that, PJ and Goss were joined by the rest of the band, and possibly Johannes (my notes suck), for Powdered Wig Machine and Crawl Home, both standout Desert Sessions tracks. This was one of the high points of the evening so far for me, the Wig Machine performance in particular. That’s a great song, but if you ever want to see it performed live, you’re probably going to have to move to Los Angeles or something.
After the Desert Sessions songs, PJ left, and the band launched into some Queens songs. I’m Designer was the first, and then there was one I didn’t recognize. I jotted down “run with me?” Maybe some superfan out there can ID it in the comments section. That was followed by the always rockin’ Little Sister, which unfortunately didn’t feature a surprise appearance by Will Ferrell on cowbell. Hangin’ Tree followed, with song co-writer Alain Johannes standing in for Mark Lanegan.
At this point, Matt Cameron, former Soundgarden / current Pearl Jam drummer, got on a second drum kit across from that of Queens’ Joey Castillo. Cameron had appeared on a few albums with Shneider; most notably Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning and Eleven’s Thunk. I can’t imagine his relationship with Natasha ends there though; my useless trivia database reminds me that the third member of Eleven besides her and Johannes was none other than Cameron’s predecessor in Pearl Jam, Jack Irons.
With Cameron, the band did Making A Cross, the Desert Sessions track. Then Tenacious D returned to the stage, and Homme started a clap-along that led into what I believe was a cover of Cream’s I Feel Free. Where’s that superfan? Confirmation on that? [Confirmed, fan video here, thanks RR forum.] Anyway, then the D left, and the band did a retardedly obscure Desert Sessions track I never thought I’d hear live: Rickshaw.
Then Josh’s babymama Brody Dalle came out. I love Brody and The Distillers much more than I’m supposed to, but fuck you, and Coral Fang is a great album. With that said, I was disappointed to get a little less than the show-stealing I know she’s capable of. I guess it just wasn’t that kind of event. With Brody they did Don’t Drink Poison (Desert Sessions), and a song they called Driving Song (new to me).
Brody left, the band did Run, Pig, Run, and then PJ Harvey returned to back Josh up on what was another high point: a swaggering, sexy Make It Witchu.
When the opening riff of Burn The Witch came next, I fully expected Billy Gibbons to appear; He’s always done that song when crashing QOTSA shows… But despite being on the bill of guests, he never made it onstage. I was pleasantly surprised by an unexpected guest on the far right mic next to Tenacious D though; Serrina Sims, vocalist of Queens guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen’s newest band Sweethead (incidentally his better half). I’ve been fucking with Troy and Serrina as long as I can remember, and I’m now determined to catch up with them, it’s been too long. Keep an eye out for an interview here, they’re good people that you should get familiar with.
I’ve always had a deep appreciation for folks who can say a lot with few words. It’s so refreshing in a world full of so many people that talk so much and say nothing. By this virtue, I applauded Homme’s speech that preceded the final song of the first set. He said, “Life is short.” He paused to let that sink in, and then delivered the most efficient sentence of the night: “Do everything.”
The band blasted through a crushing Sick, Sick Sick, thanked the audience profusely, and took the shortest encore break I’ve ever witnessed, returning to the stage in a matter of seconds with Alain Johannes leading what I’m guessing (wildly) was an Eleven song, featuring the memorable line “each day I’m resurrected…”
Then we were treated to a truly epic version of The Fun Machine Took A Shit And Died, the hidden / stolen / lost song from Era Vulgaris featuring what may have been the best Homme put-down until that Norwegian Wood fiasco: “You’re ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag.”
The final two songs reflected both ends of the night’s spectrum.
First was the Eagles Of Death Metal song Speaking In Tongues, with Jesse Hughes on the mic unexpectedly and Homme behind the kit. Hughes stormed the stage, armed with formidable aviators / facial hair, and delivered the most party four minutes of the show (yes, I just used the word party as an adjective… I may be hanging out with Jeremy from Mongo Nation too much).
Josh Homme then walked up to the mic to dedicate the final song to Natasha. I immediately recognized it, and it hit me right in the heartstrings: Long Slow Goodbye. They did the song with Alain, and as soon as it was done, Josh walked over, hugged him, and I watched as whatever words were exchanged brought tears to his eyes. Everyone else came out for a big group hug & picture with the audience, and it was easily the most emotionally touching moment I’ve witnessed in a long time. It was clear to everyone just how loved and appreciated Natasha was by her friends. I can’t imagine being afraid of anything with people like that on your side, and I can’t imagine a better way to honor someone so talented.
I myself have lost two really good personal friends to cancer: John Newman, and Christopher Bonazzo. I still miss them. I encourage you to give cancer the finger by supporting those fighting it. The American Cancer Society is a good place to start, and you can donate to the Natasha Shneider Memorial Fund here.
Homepage group shot taken by Matthew Field; More of his photos from the event can be found here. All photos on this page were taken with a shitty camera by Britney Bernstein from the crowd, because I never got a response from the Queens publicist to our request for a measly press pass. Not too shabby though, right?